Expert weaver, Lisa Phillips, reigns from Te Whānau a Apanui and Ngai Tahu, and lives in Waitati-Dunedin

Born in Opotiki in the Bay of Plenty, Lisa grew up in Kawerau, Matatā and in her teenage years Mataura, Southland. First learning to weave in 1987, starting with taniko Lisa then naturally progressing to weaving kete, whāriki, rapaki, maro, piupiu, and tukutuku.

Lisa has always enjoyed creating things, working with her hands and participated in arts and crafts at school.  She also learnt ceramics, knitting, cooking, crochet, string design, woodwork & pottery to name a few.

“As a young child I would sit and watch my Nanny, Teotina Ngarimu and Taua, Te Raita Ngamoki weave, who eventually passed their skills onto me.  However, my main kaiako has been my mother, Roka-Hurihia Ngarimu-Cameron,” Lisa said.

The majority of Lisa’s raranga akonga (learning) was taught to her at ‘Te Whare Wānanga o Te Whānau Arohanui’, Waitati.  Her parents, Kerry & Roka Cameron set up ‘Te Whānau Arohanui’ to nurture the young people they took into foster care. 

“My mother realised that everything she had learnt from her grandmother and mother could be used to provide a foundation for their activities. Teaching her children and grandchildren to weave had done much to strengthen their bonds as a whānau, and she saw how it could now be used to support others.” 

They began establishing pā harakeke (harakeke plantations) and chose the pū harakeke as the tohu or emblem for ‘Te Whānau Arohanui’ because of its valuable resource, capability of sustaining the people, and because of the way it grows and survives as a whānau. They attended many hui together across Aotearoa, also travelling to Australia & America and learnt from other weavers who attended these hui too.

Lisa started weaving wahakura in 1991 when she was tutoring and learning mahi raranga at ‘Te Whanau Arohanui’ at that time. “My mother taught me how to weave my first wahakura – this was woven with three whiri which were then all connected together and then woven up the sides with a whiri cast off,” said Lisa.

Mainly weaving the Waikawa (Fish Rib) style with a little mixture of her own techniques woven into them.  Lisa learnt this weave when attending a national weaving hui in Te Hapua, with my mother.  
“My main objective is making sure it is made for the purpose of a SAFE sleeping space for pēpi, using our natural fibres/resource while incorporating the safe sleep messaging into the actual weaving of the wahakura when teaching the hapū māmā and whānau, connecting them with Hine-te-iwaiwa, the pā harakeke, karakia and tikanga.”

Twenty years ago, Lisa worked with young māmā and pēpi facilitating anti natal, labour and postnatal support for their local whare hauora in Ōtepoti.  

“Some of my peers and family encouraged me to become a midwife as this came naturally to me, but my career ventured off into educational programmes with Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.  Fortunately the “whānau midwife” role stuck and to this day I am still called upon within my whānau and extended whānau for pregnancy advise and labour support to which I have also delivered a few pēpi during this time.”

“Weaving wahakura has entangled itself right through my weaving/working career and I am fortunate to see and be part of the changes of safe sleep messaging that have developed. Being a part of the journey to educate our hapū māmā and their whānau has been an enlightening experience that I enjoy and will continue to do. My passion for mahi raranga and the therapeutic qualities has contributed to my continued weaving of this taonga, and seeing and being part of the positive results of whānau has been rewarding.”

Currently working full time, Lisa has a couple of weaving contracts and aims is to be self employed by the middle of 2022. She also works with a collective of three mahi raranga roopu, Te Whānau Arohanui, Whiria ka aho ki Puketeraki and Murihiku. This collective weave wahakura, waka wairua, whāriki, tukutuku to name a few and also facilitating mahi raranga workshops in the Otago and Southland community.

Lisa believes creating wahakura makes a lasting impact. “A safe co-sleeping bed, the ability of hapū māmā and whānau being able to make this taonga themselves and connecting with te ao Māori, being able to put this new learning into their kete and sharing this with their whānau. The stats have been positive with the reduction of SUDI deaths in our Polynesian whānau too.”

Lisa’s moemoea (dream) for the future is to see wahakura saturated in every whānau home. “More whānau creating this beautiful taonga themselves, for the wellbeing of their pēpi and whānau.”

Lisa’s biggest influencer and main mentor in her mahi raranga journey, motherhood and in life itself, is her mother Roka. “Mum is a walking book of knowledge who is willing to share her amazing skills to anyone who is interested and she has so much to pass on that I learn something new every time I talk with her.”  

Father, Kerry Cameron has also been an influential in Lisa’s life. “His guidance, patience, wisdom, wittiness and gentle nature has also made me who I am today.  The wisdom I take from the both of them is to love and care for one another, which has also been instilled in my children and mokopuna,” Lisa said.